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Bite data may help find suspects

Science in Brief

May 17, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Researchers at Marquette University say they have developed a first-of-its kind computer program that can measure bite characteristics.

They say their work could lead to a database of bite characteristics that could narrow down suspects and lend more scientific weight to bite-mark testimony.

"The naysayers are saying, 'You can throw all this out. It's junk science. It's voodoo. This is a bunch of boobs that are causing a lot of problems and heartaches for people,' " said team leader Dr. L. Thomas Johnson, a forensic dentist who helped identify victims of the cannibalistic Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

"It's a valid science if it's done properly."

Built around the assumption that every person's teeth are unique, forensic dentistry has used bite impressions to identify criminals for 40 years.

But since 2000, at least seven people in five states who were convicted largely on bite-mark identification have been exonerated, according to the Innocence Project.

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